Do you have gadgets that are being superseded before you even get a chance to use them? I certainly do. Some online tools I am using for evaluation projects are being superseded within the course of the project timeline. But it is not just the evolution of technology that seems to be driving trends in market and social research techniques. From discussions in the industry it seems there are four fundamental tools or techniques that will become obsolete before we might be ready.
1. Online surveys
I use online surveys for many of my projects. But according to practitioners in my industry, the traditional online survey on a desktop computer that takes 15 minutes to complete is living on borrowed time. It is predicted that in the next 12 months, social media and analytics will be adopted faster than any other form of online market research. The future is predicted to be micro-surveys. These are short, in-the-moment surveys that will be run on mobiles and via social media. People will be asked a set of perhaps five key questions and will respond on the spot.
2. Formal focus groups
The traditional in-person focus group conducted in a sterile boardroom with a one-way mirror is becoming a thing of the past. Traditional focus groups limit creativity and it is becoming clear that its value proposition works for a narrow range of research briefs. I can’t remember that last time I hired a focus group room, compete with catering, one-way mirror and hosting. The majority of my projects involve talking with people in a more informal setting, perhaps as a group at their local club, in a coffee shop, or on site at an exhibition or event. At the same time we are seeing the growth of online virtual focus groups. I am yet to dive into this world because I believe there are still some limitations to this approach. But I think it will be an essential tool for researchers to have in their tool box. Longer term, there are predictions that we will see an explosive growth in online virtual focus groups conducted primarily from mobile devices. The development of these new technologies will allow researchers to engage effortlessly with respondents located anywhere.
3. The Qualitative/ Quantitative divide
Today, market research is split into two methodological spheres: qualitative and quantitative research. We tend to think of research as being one or the other. But even in recent years, my evaluation projects have started to conflate these two disciplines, as, together, they tell the story. Both occur simultaneously. Qualitative methods will continue to merge with quantitative methods and evaluation and research consultants will need to be across both disciplines.
4. Powerpoint presentations
I wish Powerpoint presentations were already obsolete, but sadly, Powerpoint is still the dominant medium for delivering presentations. We can all recall conferences in which we are faced with slides stuffed with bullet points which we are expected to read whilst listening to the speaker. Perhaps the solution to this lies in the design of good presentations. But word in the industry has it that technology will force people to explore more creative ways of communicating to audiences.
Approaches to research and evaluation don’t stop evolving. It is exciting and it can be daunting. But the responsibility is ours to inform our clients of new ways to conduct research and evaluation that respond to the changing needs of stakeholders and communities. How do you feel about the pace of change?